Erin sat between her Uncle Bob and her Aunt Gert. The plates had long been cleared away, but no one was quite ready to move from the table just yet. Her aunt and uncle were gesturing wildly with their drinks, and so much had spilled on to her, Erin was convinced she'd smell like vodka for days. Aunt Gert wouldn't stop going on about the gays getting married, and Uncle Bob was arguing the merits of the war with her cousin Frank. Her cousin John chimed in about the whole domestic spying scandal, and the table erupted in furious argument. Erin got up and went into the kitchen to see if her grandmother needed help. She found her parents washing dishes.
"Nice try," her father smirked over his shoulder. "But this is our escape route. Get your own."
She made a face and walked out onto the porch, muttering just loud enough to sort of be heard that she was getting some air. And by "getting some air", she meant "grabbing a smoke". She was supposed to have quit, and for all practical purposes, she had, but she knew better than to come to dinner with the whole family and not bring cigarettes.
She nearly tripped over the box when she stepped outside. Upon examination, it looked like it was from one of the larger online retailers. Must have been a last minute gift. Probably from Frank. He took "last minute" to lengths unheard of.
After half of a furtively smoked cigarette, she brought the box back inside. She'd open it at the table. Anything to shut up her relatives.
The cable news anchor looked somberly at the camera, as a fear-and-sentiment-inducing graphic spun toward the lower left corner of the screen.
"Millions are dead in a rash of terrorist bombings some are already calling 'The Christmas Day Massacre'."
He shifted the papers around on his desk a while. "Early yesterday evening, December the 25th, Christmas Day, a series of bombs hidden in shipping parcels were detonated across the United States, wiping entire neighborhoods off the map from one coast to the other. The White House had this to say:"
A rapidly aging White House staffer appeared on the screen, standing outside the grounds. "Well, of course the President's thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrible tragedy. And their families. And he wants to ensure the American people that their government is doing everything it can to bring those responsible to justice. He himself is in an undisclosed location, personally overseeing this latest battle in the war on terror.
The aide's face twitched slightly as he spoke, and he clearly had not slept nor changed his clothes since he hurriedly left the dinner table the day before. "The President also wants to stress that the American people should not panic, but should also be vigilant. The widespread destruction of this heinous attack on innocent lives makes clear that nowhere is truly safe. So we must stand behind the President, and support him. Just as we urge Congress to show their support for the President, for the American people, for our brave men and women overseas and for the victims of this terrible tragedy, and suspend all activities of the Legislative branch, granting emergency executive powers to the President."
The channel changed, and an angry talk show host berated his guest.
"No, *bleep*-wit. It's the Christmas Day Massacre. Calling it the Holiday Massacre dishonors everyone who died and gives direct aid to America's enemies."
The guest tried in vain to make his point. "But there have been reports, of several additional attempts today, the first day of--"
"I know what today is, okay?" the host pounced. "I know what today is. I don't need you, and everyone else telling me what day it is, because I know what day it is." He glared at his guest. "But how would you know about these additional plots. Did you maybe know ahead of time what was going to happen?"
The guest was flustered, disbelief flooding his words. "What? No, I read this morning on--"
"Yeah yeah. Whatever liberal rant site you announced your engagement to your boyfriend on. Wake up, buddy. You're what's wrong with this country, and we've just run out of patience for you and your kind."
The channel changed again. Footage of raids on left-leaning and opposition party organizations. Then changed again to dispatches from reporters embedded in the two-pronged assault on Iran and Syria. Then again to the Majority Leaders from the House and Senate, officially suspending operations, deferring all relevant powers to the President. The channel changed again, showing poll numbers for the President climbing into the upper 80s.
And the old man smiled.
And began to laugh.
This was shaping up to be the best Christmas ever.
Happy Annual Gift Day from Spontaneous Fiction!